Alone ................ knives and stuff

HELLO ................

Remember me??

I hope so, been a while though eh??

Well for my first post in a while I just wanted to chimmer a bit about stuff ............ ya you know like around a virtual campfire stuff.

Alone, the tv series, did you watch it??

No, oh mate, you should have. I loved it.

No really I did.

For many reasons as it goes but particularly from a amateur professional point of view (is there such a thing??)

It fasinated me for several reasons -

1. How someone who can be selected - pass casting and be credited as a survival expert - can only last what amounts to a long weekend in the woods - while others can go 60 or so days??

I am guessing thats casting for you - if they only selected the best it would be a dull program - they need canon fodder and maybe a pretty face to make the series .......... which seems a shame as I wonder how many actually really skills guys and gals got over looked in favour of the people selected on the bases they wouldnt be able to go the distance?

2. Knives ................ oh ya baby every one loves a knife.

The interesting thing with Alone is the vast array carried.

And the myths it puts to rest ............. bigger the knife bigger the fool ........... two kukris, a matt graham bushknife etc - prove that theory wrong.

A custom knife is better than a stock model .............. really - most of the better "contestants" had stock knives. A few did have custom jobs or at least top end stock ones but this I think proves that it isnt the knive but the user - a experienced bushcrafter can make a cheap knife work as well as a top buck knife and vicea versa.

3 The whole mental process involved - how strengths and weakness work for and against us .......... if you, like me, dream of the bushcraft ideal of going off into the woods forever with just a billy, a blanket and a blade, then this program really does make you think ............. ok sure some the guys "tap" for the most pathetic of reasons, or at least what we perceive to be such. I am sure to them they are totally legimate. But most in the end break for missing their families - or go on to win because they are doing it for their families, Alan (series 1) won because he wanted to be able to pay for his Dad to retire - David (series 2) won because he wanted his kids to have a better quality of life. These guys had solid goals ........... most of the others were there for the adventure and some found it more than they could handle.

So, if you havent seen it - come on - watch it ............... you'll enjoy it.

"Would I do it - hell ya I'd love to" - question is would they take a Brit on a US series?? Errr watch this space and we shall see .................


Welsh Wales and storm Katie

Gallt yor Ogof

I know, I know, it has been a while and I apologise .......... life that niggly little bugger just got in the way as I moved home, started a new job and generally tried to find my feet in a new town ......... The drift south west from Essex to Cornwall has hopefully stopped for a while at least giving me time to start doing the things I enjoy once again.

So this Easter weekend we decided to saddle up and weather be damned we'd head for the Welsh mountains and wild camp .......... oh ya and take along our 2 year old Labrador, a rescue dog who'd never been in the mountains before ............. untried dog, storm Katie and a night time assent on the north wales mountains ....... what could go wrong??

My basha looking across the snow capped peaks

Actually, not a lot!!

Boring I know but there it is. We scrambled and climbed into the hills by head torch -- the pooch had a head torch around his neck too, so we could see where he was (just in case)

By 2330 hrs we had reached the top arriving at the car park behind Joe Brown's Pinnacle café at 2130, so not bad going!! the weather was closing in and the temperature dropping.

Setting up camp proved interesting as the ground was sodden, after a search we did however find a small ridge just wide enough to erect a MSR Hubba for the ma'am Sab and a few feet away a second flat is section for me to stretch a Poncho over ......... yep that was my home for the night!!

Tracy's Hubba - me behind it with the basha as I brew up
 In the dark our camp was made, and after a quick brew we soon hit the sack, crawling under my basha which had about 2 inches of head room I struggled out of my wet clothes and into my sleeping bag and bivi .......... to my delight the ground was contoured to my back and laying there on my kip mat with my head cushioned on a small heather I was more comfortable than a man really has a right to be in such conditions. Sleep soon wrapped me in her loving arms and I was snoring soon after.

How long I slept I don't know but what I do know is I was rudely awoke by a slapped face ........... one corner of my tarp had been torn loose by the gale for winds that assaulted us and was now, icy and wet, slapping me in the face ...... I tried to ignore it as you do but then the hail started and I knew I was in trouble.

So question is do I dress or hope to repair the fault quickly enough that I wouldn't freeze to death .............. answer the later ........... crawling out my warm snug bag in long johns and a t shirt I struggled in the dark to locate my guy lines and re-secure the tarp ..........

Job done and not yet shivering uncontrollably I needed a wee ........ turning my back on the wind I let the little fella out and started to go ........... to late did I realise the wind was not only all around me but blowing up and down .......... Geezzz

I crawled back in my sack ................and was back to sleep in seconds.

One man and his dog - note the LK35
 The night passed, rain fell and storm Katie howled around us. My simple basha as basic as you can get would have turned the stomach of many a seasoned mountain man and yet I worked very well and I slept well ............ the MSR hubba on the other hand wasn't living up to expectation (MSR or mountain safety research) the porch was acting as a sail and the wind was driving the rain under the fly and into the inner ............ so while I lay there snoring under a £9.99 grade2 Austrian army poncho Tracy lay in a £200 tent with a snugpak extreme fur season bag and freezing cold didn't sleep a wink.

As I write this and as we descended the next morning I pondered this - all sense and most gear hounds would have said my simple primitive basic kit was a liability on the hill - I had a 3 season bag (not a four season like the snugpak) - I had a army foam kit mat and a poncho for my shelter yet I was comfortable enough to sleep the night away. How was it my kit did so well when a tent like the MSR hubba (which has served me well on so many other occasions) seemed to fail? I don't have an answer yet but on thing is for sure basic kit if used well and coupled with common sense and experience can be equal to the best or more expensive modern high tech ......

Rupert watches as shelter is collapsed and the new day starts.

Dawn was well underway when we finally awoke and broke camp - and what a morning that was - initially the views were fantastic but we could see the second wave of weather clawing its way towards us over the snowy peaks to our right .......... we broke camp amid a hail storm and winds so vicious that we had to huddle together in the lee of a rock shelf to break its sudden violence.

The storm came in waves and between waves we broke camp and packed - we were both cold and wet so I brewed up and fed the dog while I could.

Our descent was quicker than our climb, we only had one night out thanks to work commitments but before we left the mountains we struggled, but found time, to visit the pinnacle café and enjoy a hearty breakfast and stemming mug of coffee.

Smiling we listened to a handsome tall American chap telling a dis interested shop girl how he had decided to go home because the weather was so back, impressing upon her the fact he had enough gear to climb, hike or cycle ............. breakfast finished we had a quick mooch around the shop and looking a little grubby and weather beaten said lady asked what we had been up to, smiling I explained we had over knighted on top of the mountain before coming down for breakfast her reply was thus, "Really, these kids today go home with a bit of weather. Like Joe says only the old timers are real hard core these days ............."

Well smiling and with ego boosted this hard core old timer and his better half bid the lady far well and looking one last time at the storm lashed peak jumped in our car and headed for home!


Austrian Army Goretex Jacket .... review

Austrian Army Goretex Jacket
The biggest enemy of the outdoorsman, or woman, is the cold and wet and as such a good waterproof jacket is key.
In my lifetime I can remember the arrival of the Goretex jacket. These jackets are common place today both on the hill and high street and the price range of these jackets reflects this.
Most armies now also issue their troops with Goretex jackets and trousers and as such while a brand name jacket in all the rainbow colours might cost you several hundred pounds a good robust surplus one will cost a quarter of the price ......... provided you only want the more sympathetic shades that are found in nature.

The Austrian army's Goretex jacket is one I particularly like and one I have been using for many years ..... now bear in mind I have owned a lot of Goretex jackets, including brand name ones from Berghaus and Jack Wolfskin, yet the Austrian army one is still my favourite.

Apart from being a forest friendly colour and reasonably well priced (£45) its a top spec jacket - mostly these are found in a surplus graded condition so I recommend first washing and reproofing.

So what are the features?

Waist and hem elasticated drawstrings.

Large Velcro hip pockets with a generous storm flap.

Deep zipped chest pockets ...... with flap (my only criticism of this jacket is the storm flap here isn't Velcro sealed and strong wind can blow rain in here ........)

Zip and Velcro main zip.

Fully adjustable peaked (wire) hood, which is easily large enough to take a helmet - be that climbing or military.

Hood adjuster, which can be tightened and adjusted to sit on the head allowing the hood to move with the head, rather than the face disappearing into the hood.

In summary - there isn't much that can be said about a Goretex jacket - no matter how much the makers blow their own trumpets about how great they are - because at the end of the day all we really want is a jacket that is wind and waterproof ..... right? Oh yeah and a few usefully thought pockets are a bonus ....

Well dear reader in this jacket you get all those features and more for a very good price!!

Two things you don't get ..... underarm zips and pretty red or yellow versions ............


Hi guys - little bump for those interested will be adding a couple of reviews to the BaSS blog over the next few days .......... see you there



Bushcraft and Survival School

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your loyal following over the past years - it is with great pleasure and excitement I bring you the exclusive news that I am once again opening a bushcraft school.

Always one for a challenge I am starting again from scratch - learning form past mistakes and working with a excellent team of new and old instructors.

Please follow the link below to our new blog


I wish you all well and hope that maybe one day I'll meet you beside the Bushcraft and Survival school camp fire.


Wool blanket and a Synthetic bag

OK not going to labour the point but just wanted to share this one .........

On the Swedish trip I took a British Army Jungle sleeping bag and bivi as my sleep system and among other things my trusty old wool blanket to use as a match coat.

On the first day I wore the match coat and was greatly pleased with it - mostly for the warmth around the thighs - something missing from 99.9% of all modern clothing ...........

The jungle bag is what it is and is 2 season rated at best - but the night temperatures there needed a three season bag ........ my travelling companion being a wiser man than I had a Mammot 3 season bag and even he reported a chill on some nights ..... so what hope me with my think high summer bag?

Well initially I slept with the blanket OVER my sleeping bag and this worked well I was never cold! Then came the light bulb going on moment - ding!!

My blanket while being modified for a match coat had also had ties stitched on so it could be tied into a army poncho for a emergency sleep system ......... and lo and behold a army jungle bag only has ties inside for the addition of a cotton liner .........

2 + 2 = a wool sleeping bag liner ............

And folks it worked a treat - indeed I was actually too warm on occasion.

So before anyone say the obvious "why not just take a 3 season bag" etc yawn ect ......... where is your sense of adventure guys eh?

The answer is VERSATILITY .........

So pro's - warmth and versatility (sleep system and warm clothing), wool being fire safe and warmer when wet

Con's - weight and bulk

Just putting it out there ............

Two old farts on a rock grilled Bacon adventure

The two old men hunched wet and cold in their canoe as the icy hail beat a rattling tattoo on their clothing and the skin of their aluminium boat. The rain had turned to ice and the hail lashed at them spitefully, yet for all its chill the weather was windless and the lake they sat upon was mill pond calm.

Stroke, dipped the paddles as in unison they dug into the water and shoulder muscles straining pulled the canoe forward.

The day had started dark, the weather forecast received over the phone had predicted sun (sadly the trust placed in the person on the other end of the phone was misplaced as later they found out the forecast they were given was for Stockholm a 100 miles away - so you know the moral of that story) ............ but the skies, devoid of blue, stayed leaden and grey. They, the only two people on the lake for many square miles, felt the oppressive silence.

Fortunately the entire trip hadn't been so gloomy.

The old, ex sergeant Major and his trusted army buddy had been travelling since 0430, independent travellers they had arrived at Arjang in Sweden 11 hours later. The rain was heavy and the omens dark.

But the smiling face of their old friend who drove up to meet them quickly dispelled the gloom and soon bad jokes and chuckles filled the car taking them to the canoe centre.

Upon arrival at Risviken they were taken up to the big house and a tasty traditional Swedish meal of fajitas with whisky chasers was enjoyed - much welcomed after a long days travel but not to clever on a near empty stomach. It was good to see old friends looking so well and the party atmosphere lifted spirits ............ as did the whisky.

Dawn ........... heads throbbing a little, kit is packed into waterproof duffles, canoes and live jackets signed out and carried to the waters edge. The skies have cleared, a lightish breeze ruffles the water as our adventurers set off into the watery wastes before them.

Their course is true, old hands both, as they silently slip pass the small island that houses the massive nest of a "fishing eagle" ......... silently maybe by still the male spies them and launching itself on huge wings circles the canoe calling out its warning.

This trip is all about chilling out so our pair set a casual pace as they cruise ever south down the lake past old campsite and old happy memories ............ the younger one, in the front of the canoe chuckles aloud, calling back, "Always makes me laugh. I am scanning the trees waiting for the first musket round." He then shakes his head and smiling adds, "Its like last of the Mohican's! Haven't you got anything better to do on the lake today major."

Two comfortable hours paddle into a slight wind and they arrive at the place they want to camp. The shelter there stands on a rocky cliff over looking the lake with a majesty not lost on your friends. One sad find however was that the previous visitors had hacked and slashed a lot of young trees to pieces - ignorant people scaring the very thing they came to see. To add to the insult at the camp the guys find the fire pit full of green wood and three entire boxes of matches burnt and discarded below it.

Camp routine is a comfortable thing and here the routine was, as ever, quick and efficient. The right side of the Dano (a lean too type wooden shelter) becomes storage (in the shade out the sun light) while to the left personal gear is stashed. I fishing rod appears as the Sgt Major prepares to gather sustenance. The bearded old warrior smiles knowingly as the fisherman departs, his is the mundane task of setting up camp and cleaning up the previous visitors mess.

Was a fish supper enjoyed?

Sleep that long forgotten friend now returned as warm hazy lazy days drifted into one another - morning paddling, afternoons setting up camps. Meals cooked, spoons carved, birch bark containers crafted and the days merge til oh so soon it is the final morning ..........

Sadly, the canoe is loaded for the last time and the pair begin their long slow track back to the world.

The annual May/June canoe trip for them is a pilgrimage, a chance to talk, remember and bond. The weather was indifferent but the warmth of that friendship was as heart warming as ever. Old soldiers never die that just group in Valhalla.

Another great trip - time spent with a very good old friend. We chilled out and we enjoyed ..........


Snow joke .......... but a great mini adventure.



They parked their small car in the parking space. The snow swept car park was dotted with vehicles, most of which, like herding animals, clustered close to the imagined protection of the ski centres buildings. The vehicle's engine's soft growl died away and the wind's high whistle filled the silent void in its place with a eerie ghost like cry of warning.

The driver smiled, excitement lighting soft hazel eyes. The smile broadened until it lighted up the cars interior with a magic to counter the winds dark menace. The passenger took a moment to enjoy that smile before, steadying himself, opening the door and stepping from the vehicle.

The wind, like a wild beast set free and starved for blood, attacked. It surrounded the passenger, it's cold fingers probing and seeking gaps in clothing as it tried to steal away that which it hated most .... the body heat, trapped in layers of clothing, which defied its dark intent and maintained life.

Quickly, rucksacks were pulled from the vehicle and donned, now was not the time to allow bodies to cool. Ahead lay the mountains, snow and adventure.

High above the touristy, nay ski bummy, town of Aviemore (which is, all joking aside a lovely little town, which if you look at it a little squinty eyed could easily be a town in Colorado butting up the Rocky mountains) stand the Cairngorms. Snow capped and wild, these Scottish mountains please the eye with a cold danger that whispers, "come try me ..... if you dare" and dare they did for this was their reason for being there.

Oh and for my American reader can I just point out Scotland is the knobbly bit of Britain at the top and it has about as much to do with the movie Braveheart as the movie Braveheart does with historical accuracy. For the record!!

Anyway ......... packs on, our hero and his trusty side kick quickly take a selfie, all smiles and confidence, watched over by the mountains and buffeted by the ice blown wind.

The path up to the foot of the hills was a unremarkable thing - yet still it held surprises as our hikers slowly walked pass red grouse among the snow sprinkled heather. Not the brightest of birds they trusted their camouflage for protection and merely sat in patient confidence less than a arms reach away.

Onward and upward, the path winding higher and higher and growing more snow covered as it went. Here our travellers meet up with a small pump man dressed for winter warfare and cradling in his arms a large scope ........ like a father nursing a poorly child he stood there, unsure, uncomfortable ........ a fish out of water.

"Hi ya," our hero nodded in passing, "how you doing?" Well friendly enough eh?

"Ya good," came back the fellow, his soft, slightly northern accent seemingly concerned, "I'm looking for Ptarmigan, and they told me to come up here ...... about a hundred meters pass the trail.!"

"Seen any? We saw a couple of birds back there!" Tossing a nod back down the trail.

"Those red grouse?"

"Ah ya, red eye brows ......... guess so"

Interest died then, Twitcher not he. A bird with plump breast yes, but only if the feathers are dropping from a fluffy boa!!

Onward and upward once more. Our intrepid pair climb higher. But briefly as from the rear, the smiling one, questions the route! Maps and compasses appear, GPS's glow and come alive amid the snowy landscape.

Lo there, what devilry is this? The track, plain upon the map and plain upon the ground is going the wrong way?? How can this be so??

Our hero, soldier and adventurer, his side kick Mountain Leader and well known know it all appear to be on a slightly wrong course!!

Maybe the map is wrong??

No OS seem to have been as good as their word for on closure inspection our courageous pair find they are following their planned route after all ............ only backwards.

Plan b then ........... reverse the route .......... easily done.

The new wrong track now right is followed. A pair of fellow hikers, slightly higher up cross before them and they gain confidence in their, all bit long range, companionship. Sheep like they decide these people must be on the same and correct path.

Until, once again questioning their own route having, it appears, drifted to far left, they see their distant unknown companions back tracking and wading through the knee and thigh deep snow toward them.
OK navigation isn't easy in the snow when the tracks are covered ............. get over it .......... but come on get a grip. More map flapping and GPS gazing .......... more compass twisting and chatter.

Then the eureka moment - the enlightening moment, where the sleepy comfortable city slicker part of the brain screams in terror bowing in humble submission before the mountain man (or women), the Wildman (or women) the ancestor (or women). The eyes open, the ears hear and the mind steps up to the mark.

They had drifted again - fools.

"Hi ya," Smiler says to the strangers who now pass.

"Hi," they echo back, accents as Italian and the first Roman ashore before Caesar's legions.

Location decided, the weather until now a pissy arse mix of wind and wet snow and ice decides to change. Step it up a gear and keep em guessing.


So a new route is decided - where no track exists - they will make their own. Cut across back onto the original route they had followed and here (they hope) pick up the track proper.

Wading through patches of thigh deep snow they labour on a easterly bearing. Patches of heather, laying just below the surface, mark the best spots for footing to stray aside is to sink deep in the snow and flounder.

Crossing rivers and bogs, snow fields and rocky pastures they go ever eastward.


Then a cry, a wild scream of terror, banshee like, echoing across the snow. Our hero's heart freezes and terror grips him for a moment. What cruel fate has befallen Smiler.

He turns and sees. Smiler is down, waist deep in the snow. Purple goretex harsh against virgin snow and grey granite. The boulder bigger than a dragons arse.
Something is very wrong, usually Smiler is smiling. Not so now?

"You ok?"

"My foots stuck!" Fear edges that voice, the wind howls with manic like laughter. The mountain braces itself for the kill. "It's stuck between two rocks and I cant move it."

"Shit." Off comes the pack. Scrambling in the snow on hands and knees to reach his trapped buddy .

And then amid the anguish and the uncertainty a laugh bubbles to the surface as our hero sees Smiler digging through the slowly deepening snow with what? A shovel? A snow shovel? Nope, the cap of a water bottle .......... ah yes, that trusted scooper of snow since man, fur clad and primal, first ventured out across the snow in search of mammoth.
Bare hands scrape and dig. Snow is dragged aside. Down, down the leg to the Ankle. Here we meet Moss covered stone and the mystery reveals itself. The rocks must have had moss growing over them and over the gap between them and the snow when it fell covered the lot creating what might be considered a mini crevasse.
And it is into this space that Smilers foot is now wedged. Thoughts whirl ......... can smiler be freed?  Would cutting the laces of those Merrels free the foot or should our hero remove the foot entirely??
"If we can not free the foot," he thinks, "I'll put smiler on sleeping mats, in a sleeping bag and use the tent as a cover from the wind and snow. GPS waymark the location and go fetch help."
But fortune favours the brave and dragging all matter that is not rock clear finally the foot wiggles lose (with more than a little tugging)


Now is the time for laughter. Relief.
Yet still the mountain awaits. Maybe its dark intent is stalled, maybe forgotten.
Onward they go finally reaching the track they seek. The before them footprints in the snow stretch up the hillside the like imprint of a giant spine.
Up young man, up! And so they climb.
Now the Scottish weather does that which it does best and changes. Gone the wind and the driven wet, in its place a white out. Snow and hail, thicken to a fog crushing visibility.
His eyes are hurting now - the strain of seeking the track burning them and he thanks the Gods he had the foresight to pack a pair of sunglasses to guard against this.
The incline is steep, his legs burn - his arms likewise as he slowly plods and poles his way up the mountain ............ Smiler ever faithful, behind him stepping into his foot prints allowing him to break trail ahead.
The storm rages on. The snow, wind blown, soon fills their tracks and the tracks of those before them. Cleansing the hill, turning a Scottish Munro into, in his mind at least, The Hardangervidda or some equally distance and romantic frozen land.


Speaking of Norway ........... slowly the white out lifts and there before them materialises a stone figure. A figure more Inuit than Viking .........wrapped in white, standing upon a cairn they came across an INUKSHUK. How exciting and strangely appropriate.


The storm abates and there in the distance another cairn can be seen, Smiler leads covering the distance quickly. The snow here wind swept and compressed, crusted with ice and yet treacle like as they cross it. Finally the second cairn and more importantly the half way point - the point of no return.
Smiler says what they both think ........... should be go back and camp in the valley? The challenge is tempting but they know, now, that they lack several critical items and while they will survive they know it will be a hard won fight.
The mountain will be there tomorrow.
A coin is tossed and fate is decided. They turn back faces into the ice storm and retrace their steps back, slowly, to the Inukshuk.


Here the stop. The storm rages and our hero builds a shelter, producing coffee and hot chocolate and porridge, flapjacks and wine gums complete the chilly picnic at the top of the world.
Time for a quick snap of his trusted LK70 beside the Inukshuk and then they are off once more, heading down hill into the mouth of the storm.


So why did they turn back? Inexperience in that climate meant they were lacking critical kit - snow shoes, snow shovel and goggles would have been good items to include in the future for example. As would a second set of poles.
But also, and more importantly was the realisation that they could do it, but sheer power of will but also that common sense dictated that the discretion was the better part of valour on that occasion. 

So here ends our little tale - the moral of the story is that it is always a good thing to test oneself ... to go a little outside the comfort zone but the wise man tempers this with common sense.
Remember the mountain will always be there tomorrow.



Ray Mears on Dartmoor

Never was a program more relevant to me now than this .............